One hundred students comprising Tamaques Elementary School’s fifth grade sat attentively on their gym floor in Westfield on June 6 while South African native Steven Cohn described growing up during the period of Apartheid.

Cohn, who moved to the US in 1987 when he was 16 and is now an English teacher at Westfield High School, gave personal accounts of what happened during the time of Apartheid. Cohn’s presentation complemented the district’s new fifth grade curriculum on global perspectives and included general facts about the country as well as examples of his life growing up white in a country whose government practiced discrimination. 

“Steve did a fantastic job sharing his experiences about Apartheid from a different perspective,” explained Tamaques teacher Marisa Truselo. “Students were shocked to hear that atrocities continue to take place even today,” she added. 

Sign Up for E-News

Students expressed their appreciation for Cohn’s discussion as well. 

"Afterwards I was so interested learning more about the apartheid and segregation that I ran to the library to take some books out," said Luke Mokryzcki. 

"Before the speaker came and told us about Apartheid, the whole thing was a faraway idea, but when he spoke, I then really understood the enormity of the situation,” added Michael Liebermann. 

Addressing Cohn following his presentation, Leo Mangiamele, said, "You taught us what the textbook couldn't."

Leah Becker told Cohn, “I enjoy current events, and to have a real person witnessing what the effects of Apartheid was, made your story amazing and interesting."